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Eco-Storage Technologies

Plastic Insulated Solar Powered Cold room (Eco Cold Room) and Zero Energy Cooling Chamber (ZECC) used for storage of fruits and veggies

Photo of Hadijah Nantambi

Written by

EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Eco-storage technologies are innovative storage, cooling ideas aimed at reducing food wastage and spoilage at different levels i.e. farm and market. Farmers, traders and retailers of fresh fruits and vegetables are faced with deteriorating quality and quantity of these produces in hot, open weather conditions. The produce withers in the hot sun of the day with no cooling / preservation measure available to the traders, resulting in loss of produce and consequently income. Farm level operation The low cost Zero Energy Cooling Chamber (ZECC) will be constructed at farm level, where small holder farmers handle minimal quantities of produce before it is taken to collection centers or markets. Retailers too will utilize the ZECC for temporary storage of the fruits and vegetables as they wait to sell in a few days. The operation of the ZECC requires minimal training and hardly any technical knowledge and therefore can be operated by any one. Collection center operation The Eco Cold Room is constructed using plastic waste bottles for insulation, clay bricks, sand and cement. It provides storage and cooling at a low cost while reducing environmental pollution by utilizing the plastic wastes. It can be constructed at pack houses, collection centers and market centers where there is bulk fresh produce. The cold room can be used to keep commercial produce for a long period of time; increasing their shelf life and extending the revenue periods of the farmers and retailers.

WHO BENEFITS?

City Market Vendors and Small holder farmers. Eco storage technologies will result in • Reduced on-farm losses due to presence of storage facilities at farm level • Increased shelf life of perishable produce thus better and more stable produce price in the market. • Increased farmers’ income without the need to intensify their field production • Better prices and better management of surplus fruits and vegetables on the market

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

In Uganda The Cooling Chamber will be used for temporary storage of the fruits and vegetables by farmers immediately after harvest. The Plastic Insulated Solar Powered Cold room will be constructed at pack houses and in markets.

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

Hadijah and Sylvia are professional business oriented people with a high interest in contributing positively to the horticultural value chain. We are working out innovations on production, post-harvest handling and marketing of horticulture produce through our company EcoLife Foods.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

This idea is for my organization EcoLife Foods where I work as the innovation director. Am in charge of developing Eco storage technologies throughout its life cycle.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

1. Eco Storage Technologies are real solutions that will be implemented along the whole value chain of fruits and vegetables. The ZECC will be easily installed on different farms and village collection centers. The plastic insulated cold room will be installed in major city markets, pack houses, processing factories and airports for the exporters. 2. Eco storage technologies are green concepts with use of low cost insulation (reuse of plastic waste) and cooling technology (zero or renewable energy). 3. The backward linkage with small holder farmers will ensure continuous product improvement and consistent yet high quality produce to meet customer needs. 4. The innovation is consumer driven. Through our company EcoLife foods, we purchase high quality farmers' fruits and vegetables. So this innovation is a tracking tool and a sustainability model to reduce food spoilage before reaching the consumer and increase our selling boundaries.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

Hadijah will devote time to make sure Eco Storage technologies reduce food wastage in Uganda through.  Continuous product improvement  Adopting and using the Eco Storage technologies at EcoLife foods My partner Sylvia will be responsible for  Training farmers on produce quality and production issues  Ensuring produce quality at farm level  Planning, promoting, and organizing training activities related to extension of fresh produce shelf life to reduce food wastage.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

I have realized that both the ZECC and Eco cold Room should be partitioned to cater for different produce at the same time. For example ethylene and non ethylene producing fruits should be separated. The Eco Cold Room should be connected to both solar and hydro power to mitigate power fluctuations.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

1. Can the Eco Cold Room be connected to double grid (both hydro power and solar energy)? 2. Can the ZECC be constructed in form of a room (Zero Energy Cool Room)? This would increase the storage capacity and usability 3. Are there multi-location studies at different agro climatic zones?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

• From our interactions with the farmers and market vendors, there are currently NO interventions to solve the problem of post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables both at the farm and market level. • The current technologies like electronic refrigerators used in major cities have failed to penetrate into the rural and semi-urban communities. • There are persistent losses of fresh fruits and vegetables both by the farmers after harvest and by the market vendors. These contribute to 30-40% of fruits and vegetable spoilage in Uganda. • Fruit and vegetable farmers suffer losses by selling their produce at low prices during the bumper seasons

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

• With this idea we hope to reduce the post-harvest losses of the fruits and vegetables to zero in the pilot community within a period of 1 year • To grow a successful business that deals in supply of farm fresh fruits and vegetables in Uganda • Maintain a constant supply of fruits and vegetables from local communities Our next step to get there is to validate Eco storage technologies in order to achieve the detailed design requirements for customer/user experience. To assure product quality.

MEMBERS OF MY TEAM HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER FOR:

  • Between 6 months and a year

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Under $100,000

We are seeking to introduce two Eco-friendly storage technologies that will be used to preserve the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables; and reduce post harvest losses in Uganda. The first is the Zero Energy Cooling Chamber (ZECC). The chamber require no energy for operation and is constructed from cheap locally available materials like sand and bricks. It will be used for temporary storage of the fruits and vegetables by both farmers and retailers immediately after harvest. The second is a Plastic Insulated Solar Powered Cold room. The cold rooms will be constructed at pack houses and in different towns and big markets. The fresh produce will be transferred to the cold rooms where they can be preserved longer without spoilage until they are sold off to the customers.

22 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Lisa Kitinoja
Team

In India, postharvest scientists at the IARI have designed walk-in large room sized ZECC, both in a round shape and a square shape.  They used strong metal rebar poles to reinforce the walls, and added a slatted floor (about 1 m above the ground for good air flow) and a solar powered vent exhaust fan in the roof.  In these type of cool chambers the drop in potential temperature change depends on the relative humidity -- via passive evaporative cooling you can lower the  temperature inside the ZECC to about 2 C above the dew point temperature.

Spam
Photo of Hadijah Nantambi
Team

Thank you Lisa for this wonderful literature. I have considered it and my mindset changed greatly.


I applied for the post-harvest course last year. However, I was unable to continue due to lack of the registration fee. Am very sure that next year I will be your student.


Regards,

Hadijah

Spam
Photo of Lisa Kitinoja
Team

I am pleased to hear this Hadijah-- it is not too late to join this year's e-learning program and I can wave the reg fee for you if you have the time to participate.  Send me an email (kitinoja@postharvest.org) and I can send you the application form and agenda. We have just started up a new program for a group in Tanzania in June, and you are wlecome to join us now.  LK

Spam
Photo of Hadijah Nantambi
Team

Thank you Lisa. I will take the opportunity with both hands.
The email has been sent.

Spam
Photo of Lia Bardoel
Team

Hi Hadijah,

First of all, great to see that your are working on cooling as well. With our product we are cooling milk, but cooling vegetables is as important!

Great to see you are cooling on farm level, having a direct impact on the farmer's income.

Then, I have two questions:
You mention ZECC is a low cost cooling technique. I'm wondering to what temperature difference this cooling chamber can cool. And what do you mean by low cost?

Thank you!

Best, Lia

Spam
Photo of Hadijah Nantambi
Team

Dear Lia,

The ZECC is a wonder farm low cost cooling technology with various advantages;


1. It does not require any electricity or power to operate

2. Materials required like bricks, sand, papyrus etc. available easily and cheaply.

3. It is a double brick-wall structure, the cavity is filled with sand and walls of the chamber are soaked in water.

4. Unskilled labour can build the chamber, as it does not require any specialized skill.

5. Cool chambers can reduce temperature by 10-15 oC and maintain high humidity
of about 95% that can increase shelf life and retain quality of fruits and vegetables

6. Small holder farmers can store a few days' harvest to avoid middlemen.


Regards,
Hadijah

Spam
Photo of Mugume David
Team

I like this idea; if fully implemented, it will increase the consumers assurance for high quality fresh fruits and vegetables. To the farmers and retailers, it will reduce the losses they suffer due to spoilage therefore it will increase their income. it can easily be implemented in most African communities due to to reduced cost in the construction of the cold room

Spam
Photo of Hadijah Nantambi
Team

Thank you Mugume

Spam
Photo of Dr Simon M Holland
Team

Hi,

Seems this is one of "need of hours".

Great, you picked as nice topic to make an impact, it really has great value to users.

Best

Simon.

Spam
Photo of Hadijah Nantambi
Team

Thank you simon

Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Hadijah,

The Amplify and our experts have some feedback/questions for you: 

I like the fact that this is being proposed by a buyer. That is somewhat unique, and could help in terms of sustainability.

Did you speak to farmers before coming up with this idea? What did you learn that informed your idea? What do farmers perceive as their greatest needs?

What happens on the rest of the value chain journey? For example, who is giving time, effort, and maintenance? What are they receiving in return? Who is saving or earning more because the food isn't spoiling at different points in the journey? Are there considerations regarding the safety of having these placed in farms and markets?

I'm inspired by the thoughtfulness that's gone into this write up. There's a definite need for cold storage along the supply chain. Have you considered who will build the room and chamber? How will produce be transported there and when?

Looking forward to learning more! 

Spam
Photo of Hadijah Nantambi
Team

Did you speak to farmers before coming up with this idea?

Yes, for the last three years, we have had interaction with farmers through our partner company Supa Green Farm (an agro-inputs business that sells seeds and other inputs to farmers). We constantly visit farmers in the fields and exchange knowledge, gather information and agree on supplies for our business. Interacting and talking to farmers is part and parcel of our business strategy.

What did you learn that informed your idea?

All the farmers depend on rain fed agriculture. Only 2 out of 10 farmers visited grow crops in the dry season using swamps. Having most of the farmers growing crops at the same time in the rainy season results in very large quantities of produce for the market. This results in immense post-harvest losses as there is inadequate or non-existent cool/cold storage facilities for fresh fruits and vegetables. This has led to high food spoilage both at the farm and market place. In addition, the short shelf life of fresh produce constrains farmers, thereby sell at any given price to redeem any income.
Therefore, our idea to prolong the shelf life is needed to achieve stable prices, increase farmers’ incomes and reduce food spoilage.
We also got informed that a 30 – 40% of fresh fruits and vegetables doesn’t get to the final consumer in Uganda.
Given these post-harvest losses and opportunities during bumper and off season, it is evident that the livelihoods of many Ugandans could be increased by investments targeting fruits and vegetable storage technologies.


What do farmers perceive as their greatest needs?

Farmers greatest need is selling off what they have produced. They note that if they have a reliant buyer, who would buy all they have produced, then they would work hardest. They note that projects entice them to produce certain crops promising them of market, but when the crops are ready the market is not there. Farmers also have no time to take produce to market places. They thus resort to transporting it at night, for them to have time to attend to their gardens during the day. The night transportation also deals with the lack of cooling facilities, so their produce reaches the market in its freshness. They also dream of year round production. Many of them have no access to swamps yet produce fetches the highest price during the dry season unlike during the rainy season. Many farmers would like to irrigate their crops and be able to supply even in the dry season

What are they receiving in return? Who is saving or earning more because the food isn't spoiling at different points in the journey?

At EcoLife Foods, there are currently two individuals of the team that receive payment. The operations manager and innovations officer. The rest of the staff incur costs on behalf of EcoLife, and we hope that one day EcoLife will be able to pay them off. They are thus indebted to EcoLife.
Along the value chain farmers are saving more by adopting to our Eco Storage Technologies. They are able to maintain the quality of their produce using the good storage practices and sell all their produce at stable prices without any stressful selling.
EcoLife Foods is earning more due to our capacity to store farm fresh produce during the bumper period and sell at higher prices during the dry spell.
Actors along the value chain will earn as follows; farmer (35%), collector (10%), transporter (5%), wholesaler/retailer (EcoLife) (50%)

Are there considerations regarding the safety of having these placed in farms and markets?

Most of the farms and market places that we have interacted with have social security and once the technology is put in place it will be for the whole group of farmers or traders in the market place. Therefore these structures will be safe in the two places. All the technologies are environmentally friendly and there are not many environmental concerns that are envisaged with this technology.

I'm inspired by the thoughtfulness that's gone into this write up. There's a definite need for cold storage along the supply chain. Have you considered who will build the room and chamber?

At EcoLife Foods we have a dedicated team of architects and engineers who have translated our prototypes into actual structures.

How will produce be transported there and when?

After harvesting farmers will manually transport the fresh produce to the chambers (collection points) for pre-cooling.
We hope to use our “Eco Truck’’ to transport farmer fresh produce our cold storage facilities. The truck is fabricated with an insulated container attached with a cyclone.

Spam
Photo of Hadijah Nantambi
Team

What happens on the rest of the value chain journey? For example, who is giving time, effort, and maintenance?

The horticulture value chain starts with the Seed suppliers selling seed to farmers, the farmers carrying out production, collectors, transporters, buyers, wholesalers/retailers and finally consumers.

Seed suppliers: The horticulture seed system is not very well developed and many farmers use own saved seed or buy saved seed from fellow farmers. Farmers go to seed companies to buy vegetable hybrid seed or seed of improved varieties of exotic vegetables. The quality of seed determines the produce output for the market.

Farmers: these are the primary producers of fruits and vegetables on the market. They mainly operate on small pieces of land ranging from 0.25acres to 2acres. Many of them specialize in certain lines of either fruits or vegetables but hardly do you find one who does both for the market. The farmers prefer to operate in groups.

Collectors: these are men and women on the village, who are sometimes the group leaders or who have self-styled themselves into bulking centers. They move around the village picking bits and pieces of produce from farmers of the area, bulk it up together for the transporter to take to Kampala. In some arrangements they buy from the farmers and pay immediately then sell to middle men who take it to Kampala. In other arrangements they just pile up the produce, transport it themselves and pay the farmer on return. These individuals (especially those who are farmers) are our main contacts in the field. They connect us to the best farmers who we directly work with. We encourage these collectors to directly supply EcoLife.

Transporters: these are men who are from the village but with a vehicle, or middlemen from Kampala, or sometimes farmers themselves who sell in groups. They pick the produce from the village and take it to Kampala or other markets around the village or far from the village.
Buyers: these are usually at market centers. They buy the produce from the trucks for retail or wholesale. EcoLife foods is one of the buyers of fresh fruits and vegetables and supplies them to her clients.

Wholesaler/retailer: these are men and women in the market who buy large quantities of farm produce from trucks and sell it to other buyers in the case of wholesalers or to final consumers in the case of retailers. In this EcoLife foods is a retailer.

Consumer: these are the final participants of the value chain. They consume what has finally come to the table through the long chain of events. The clients of EcoLife foods are one of these.

EcoLife foods has a dedicated team of people carrying out different roles from farm fields to the final consumer namely;
1. Mrs. Hadijah N. Ssekyondwa (Fully employed as Technical/Innovation Director – EcoLife foods) responsible for Creating and designing ideas for EcoLife, manage EcoLife strategy and plan of work.

2. Mr. Ssekyondwa Micheal (partially employed as Financial advisor) Offers advice of the financial management and marketing.

3. Ms. Sylvia Namazzi (partially employed as Production Director) Links EcoLife to farmers/suppliers of produce.

4. Mr. Mugume David (Fully employed as Innovation Officer) is in charge of new innovations work.

5. Mr. Mwiza Andrew (Fully employed as Operation Manager – EcoLife Foods) carries out home deliveries, daily sales of produce, manages the Eco shop.

6. Mr. Sanga Lukoda (consultant and CEO – Supa Green Farm) Points out farmers to contact and advises whenever needed.

7. Mr. Mugabi Stephen (Fully employed as Construction/maintenance engineer) Construction of all technologies required by EcoLife.

Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Hadijah!

Thank you for the comprehensive response! I see you've added some pictures - is that an Eco cold room that your team has built? How are you prototyping this idea to get a sense of whether it meets the needs you envision it will?
Thanks! 

Spam
Photo of Hadijah Nantambi
Team

Yes, that is the Eco cold room.

We are the very first users of the idea since we are in the business of fresh fruits and vegetables. We have kept mainly fruits in the structure as that is what was available at the time the structure was erected and by now know how many days these fruits take in the structure while still fresh. For example passion fruits take 16 days and for all the time we had these fruits before sell they remained very fresh. We have records of energy consumption and we are working with our technician to make it as energy efficient as possible. We are still doing work on other fruits and vegetables to understand their performance while in the structure. In all this our customers have not complained about the quality of the fruits that came from the Eco cold room, meaning that they maintained their quality while under storage.

So far it has met our need as sellers of fresh fruits and vegetables; there is no doubt it will meet the needs of other marketers.

Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Really interesting to learn, Hadijah, thank you! 

Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Really interesting to learn, Hadijah, thank you! 

Spam
Photo of Hadijah Nantambi
Team

Greetings Chioma,
it was nice interacting with you. Thank you!

Spam
Photo of Michael Ssekyondwa
Team

This is a good initiative. If fully implemented farmers will begin to have some level of influence in pricing of their farm produce. Post harvest loses have discouraged many farmers in sub Saharan region albeit having no alternative income generating ventures at household level

Spam
Photo of Elly Nelson
Team

Appreciated. Good thinking.

Spam
Photo of Hadijah Nantambi
Team

Thank you

Spam
Photo of Hadijah Nantambi
Team

 Eco storage technologies will kick horticulture post harvest loses out of Uganda